Friday, November 18, 2005

Eating Dinner Out

Last night I was working late. As I was leaving the office (I'm helping out at one of the most innovative social activist organizations in North America -- Pivot Legal Society. They're having their annual charity auction on Monday, andI'm doing what I can to help with the production.), I was hungry. The most convenient place to get something to eat was an overpriced brew pub, called Steamworks.

Now, I'm going to pause here and clarify some aspects of dining out in Canada (and the USA), because I know some people who read this are from different parts of the world.

Point #1
A brew pub is a restaurant/bar that actually makes its own beer. Often quite tasty beer, in fact.

Point #2
Tipping in pubs/restaurants is something that is taken for granted here, and is an annoyance, especially if you've had a few of those beers....Essentially, restaurant owners can pay their staff low wages because they know that the customers will leave 10% to 20% of the total bill, extra, for the server. And of course, the customer is already paying for the food, which includes the profit margin for the restaurant owner. The server is dependent on the tips, because it is the difference between a minimum wage and a liveable wage. Let's see, who wins in this scenario? Pause, think for a moment....Ah yes. The restaurant owner. The customer pays for the food, and helps pay for the staff. [Don't get me started.]

Point #3
Many people use their bank cards to pay for things instead of carrying cash, or using a credit card. It doesn't take any longer for that to be processed than it does a credit card, and it costs the customer nothing (or very little, depending on the bank plan you have). It costs the business a little bit, like a credit card: I think up to 4% on the amount. Generally, for small businesses it can be expensive, so I try to use cash. For larger businesses, well, it's part of the cost of doing business.

Point #4
Bank machines are everywhere, and nowadays, not only at banks. Businesses can now get a bank machine in their establishment that charges the user $1.50 to $2 to use (and the business gets a big chunk of that). Bars and restaurants sometimes do it -- mostly bars. It's tacky. People hate them, because it costs them that extra amount.

So, back to my story.

I had an overpriced salad and a pint of beer at this restaurant, and went to pay with my bank card. My bill was $19.04 (oh yeah, that includes 14.5% tax as well!). The server (a lovely woman) smiles apologetically and tells me that they don't take bank cards, but that I can use the machine downstairs to take out some money. This annoys me, so I go and take out $20 -- no, sorry, $22 (paying the restaurant that extra 10% on my bill!).

I asked to speak to the manager, 'cause I was pissed. His answer: "We're too big to be able to accept bank cards." Too big?!? McDonald's takes bank cards! Many bigger and better places take bank cards. And if Steamworks gets so many people using bank cards, why isn't there a line up at the machine?

Of course, at the time, I was too angry to point out these rational arguments to his ridiculous claim, so I just didn't tip the server. I told her (and the manager) that the restaurant owed her the 10% I would have left for her.

Did I leave in a huff? Yes. Do I feel bad about it? Yes. She was very friendly, and she'll never get a raise from that skinflint restaurant, much less the $2.

Will I go back there? Ah, that's the really ridiculous thing...I probably will.


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